We all watched the advertising industry rapidly shift to the digital platform in recent years, and the idea of creativity almost became a meaningless buzzword in the process. Despite the challenges, some agencies succeeded in the new era by continuing to serve the basic purpose of advertising: crafting meaningful narratives.
A multinational digital marketing agency, Eikon7 was set up with the belief that mutually beneficial relationships and greater understanding can only be built in an evolving environment through collaborations that Mean Something. We got a chance to interview the founders – Shayan Mahmud (Managing Partner), Irina Branescu (Global Creative Director) and Gabriel Branescu (Head of Branding and Digital Marketing) – about how Eikon7 is doing things differently.
Q1. How did Eikon7 come about?
Shayan: I was in Romania to work on post production for a Pakistani film and whilst I was there, I was introduced to Gabriel by a mutual friend. We instantly hit it off, became good friends and that was sort of where it all began…. coincidently the film I was working on needed digital marketing and I asked Gabriel’s agency Badcat(now Eikon7 Romania) to help. I loved their work and we began discussing Pakistan and its potential.
Q2. Why has Eikon7 expanded to the countries it has? Is there any particular reason for the current foot print?
Shayan: We believe in working with good people and that being our most solid basis or foundation for expansion. Does the partner align with our vision and Eikon7’s core focus? The location and market for us is always secondary.
Gabriel: Also, we have noticed that multiculturalism boosts creativity. There have been projects on which Eikon 7 people from Pakistan, Romania and Rwanda worked together. The difference in perspectives made every brainstorming so animated and bursting with ideas. And clients appreciate those surprising ideas. But the main reason is that we see the tremendous potential of bringing western know-how and experience to emerging markets, such as Pakistan.
Q3. Is there a story behind the name?
Shayan: Eikon means the ‘image of heavenly things’ and the 7 represents our desire to be in all 7 continents. I have this very vivid memory of us constantly going back and forth, for weeks, deliberating on the name and Gabriel sending me a picture of a napkin with this rough sketch of our logo. It seems so surreal looking back at it.
Irina: We wanted something to speak about creation, about our desire to build wondrous and outstanding things.
Gabriel: Exactly, like the seven wonders of the world. And also about being an icon in our field and helping our clients be icons in theirs.
Q4. In a rapidly growing industry, what do you think you are doing differently from the other creative shops?
Irina: As Gabriel was saying before, talking about our cultural diversity, it’s not only about different backgrounds, it is also about having already gone through a stage of development, in one country or another, or having leaped or bypassed it altogether and being able to share that knowledge. Eikon 7 works differently from your run of the mill multinational. Our national offices work together on many projects, we meet clients over Skype or Zoom, we brainstorm together… We are one team, not different teams linked by a common brand name. We’ve been working like this not only for clients in Pakistan and Romania, but also for clients in the United States, or Dubai, Austria and so on.
Gabriel: Another thing that we do and clients appreciate, especially smaller or start-up clients, is we roll up our sleeves and work with them on marketing issues not directly linked to communication, such as pricing or distribution, or even product development. We do it so the whole approach would be integrated. Because every element of the marketing mix conveys a message about your brand: product features say something about you, your values and priorities, the price says something about you, where you can be found (and how consistently) says something about you.
Shayan: I agree with Gabriel and Irina. That and our desire to blend technology with Advertising. We believe in today’s day and age, the analytical approach of digital and the advent of social media has changed the landscape of advertising in a big way. Yes, in some ways advertising is an ‘art’ form and the medium is just a tool of expression, however never before have the tools of expression or even commerce or trade been as accurate and measurable. Businesses are about ‘bottom line’ and we feel that with Eikon7 we look to find that balance between art, science, analytics and most importantly, the ‘bottom line’.
Q5. Is it working?
Shayan: I think it is. We’ve got something very unique to offer. For example, the Pakistani market alone has so much potential and we’ve been lucky enough to expand very quickly in terms of clientele and team development.
Gabriel: It’s definitely working. We’ve decided to concentrate, at this stage, on Pakistan and the Middle East, for various reasons, such as market potential and growth. We now have an outstanding team, we have satisfied clients recommending us further and we have developed strategic partnerships with tech companies, such as Alibaba, Interactive and others. Business is solid and we’re growing steadily. We hit a bit of a bump in Africa, with our Romanian partner there having to repatriate, for personal reasons. But we’re already talking to other potential local partners, in Rwanda and Tanzania.
Q6. Given the dynamic changes in the industry, what skills do you look for in an ad man/woman today?
Gabriel: They have to be Swiss army knives, so to speak, to have multiple talents and be able to multitask, or rapidly switch tasks. Copywriters, art directors and designers should be comfortable with social media, with branding and marketing, but also with video production.
Irina: I completely agree. Also, designers should be comfortable thinking in terms of UX/UI, video production design and why not, client service. The pace requires that they speak directly to the client, on more than one occasion.
Q7. Given your experiences abroad, how does Pakistan differ to the advertising landscape in Europe or the Middle East?
Irina: The tastes in design differ. Different fonts, different colors, different photography style… European advertising design is clearly more minimalistic, with emphasis on “cleaner” layouts and simplicity.
Gabriel: You can feel some Indian influence in advertising, but Pakistan has it’s own unique style. TV is still the king, more so compared to Europe or the Middle East. On the other hand, given the population structure, with so many young people on mobiles, social media and all forms of online communication are becoming rapidly relevant, as is e-commerce.
Q8. How do you cultivate the freedom of creative expression at your agency?
Shayan: I feel our emphasis on youth goes a long way in helping that happen. We’re a different sort of agency and we’ve learned the hard way the truth in that old adage ‘can’t teach an old dog new tricks’. So. as a matter of principle, we hire young, bright individuals whom we groom over time and cultivate into our future management.
Irina: We praise and reward creativity and, most of all, involvement, people who care about their work and about their client. Advertising today is not about one big idea per year, or even decade, anymore. It’s about ten good ideas each day, that will keep the ball rolling. That means everyone has the chance to see their ideas implemented.
Q9. What are you most proud of so far?
Shayan: For me, personally, it has to be the culture. We’ve developed a real feeling of togetherness as a team and it’s really heart warming to see. I’d always think to myself when we were starting out that I hope Eikon7 is the kind of place people are proud to work at. I think we’ve come a long way in establishing that.
Gabriel: I am proud of our one team, of our success in creating an effective long distance workflow. And I am proud of my partners. We have absolute trust among us, which made possible the rapid expansion and configuring the model on the go.
Irina: Our young and talented people, especially those in Pakistan. I have never seen anyone learning so fast and caring so much about their work.
Q10. What do you feel is the next big trend in advertising?
Shayan: We’ll let Gabriel take this one.
Gabriel: Sure. The trend seems to be increased personalization and micro targeting. The operational definition of targeting is changing to include more ephemeral parameters, such as emotions. Basically, the resolution of the big picture is increasing, but the big picture is still the same. The integrated, multichannel approach is still the name of the game. New tools, such as virtual and augmented reality will just help with the online/offline integration. Marketing with meaning, cause related marketing and politicization of commercial marketing are also on the rise. It is not something entirely new, but what used to be done unconsciously, implicitly supporting one agenda or another, by catering to consumers’ values and aspirations, is now done deliberately. This is especially due to the increasing impact of social media and user generated content. Generally, people are more aware of being influenced, and that complicates things, to some extent.
Q.11 Lastly, we found your slogan ‘Mean Something’ fascinating. Can you tell us a little more about it?
Irina: As I said, talking about our brand name, it’s not just about getting noticed, it’s about becoming a landmark, an icon, making a difference.
Gabriel: We are also firm believers in the idea (and the ideal) of marketing with meaning, the marketing and advertising that add real value to people’s lives, not just informing them, or creating demand.
Shayan: I feel it more like a reminder: don’t do meaningless work. be part of something meaningful, and that’s a reward in itself. Mean something to each other, to your partners, your coworkers, your clients.
Want to be part of Eikon7 team? Drop them a line at [email protected] .